There’s no question that getting your furnace tuned up annually is a good idea. In fact, furnace manufacturers recommend it as a part of keeping their furnaces running smoothly. In many cases, manufacturers’ warranties may even require it.
However, annual furnace maintenance is more than a box to tick on a warranty form. When done properly and consistently, furnace tune-ups are worth it and can actually save you money in the long run. They can often prevent potentially dangerous malfunctions and breakdowns, and the gains in efficiency they provide more than offset their cost.
And while the savings they provide are certainly worth doing it, there is an even more important reason to get your furnace tuned up annually: your life could depend on it. As gas furnaces age, they can become more prone to carbon monoxide leaks, something that is detected during annual maintenance.
Heating Costs in Calgary
Calgary is not always the warmest of places. November through March, the temperature rarely rises above the freezing point. This kind of weather puts lots of pressure on our furnaces, forcing them to work hard to keep out the chill.
It’s not always winter in Canada (though it may feel like it), but heating still makes up the biggest portion of our energy bills. According to Natural Resources Canada, heating the average Canadian household up almost two thirds of the total energy budget.
In 2013, Calgarians spent almost $120 per month on average on heating according to the Calgary Sun. However, with the rise in natural gas prices, some experts expect that Canadians could soon be paying as much as $200-$300 per month on heat during the winter. As heating costs go up, it becomes more important to ensure that your furnace is operating at peak efficiency. But what does peak efficiency really mean?
Tune-Ups Cut Down on Costs
The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) percentage is a measurement of how good a furnace is at converting energy to heat. In Canada, we have strict minimum regulations for AFUE percentages: 90% for gas and 80% for electric. However, if you bought your furnace before 1995 when these regulations came into effect, your furnace’s AFUE may be significantly less than this.
As furnaces age, their efficiency may decline if they have not been properly maintained. This decline will differ depending on the furnace’s model and the conditions in the home. However, according to a U.S. Department of Energy study carried out in Chicago, furnaces that are properly maintained do not see a decline in efficiency as they age. In fact, they found that furnace tune-ups corrected efficiency by 6.4%, which they estimated would save consumers $100 per year, a number that completely offsets any costs incurred by the tune-up itself.
Since furnaces slip in efficiency at a constant rate, losses accumulate. So, if you haven’t had your furnace maintained in some time, there’s a good likelihood you’re losing more than just $100 per year.
Some estimates are even more optimistic, putting the actual energy savings from a furnace tune-up at around 30%. At that rate, Calgarians are likely to save as much as $300 per year (based on a monthly bill of $200).
Of course, results will vary based on location and the age of the furnace. What is clear is that furnace tune-ups pay for themselves, and may save you quite a bit of money in the long term.
Energy savings are one thing, but the costs associated with the larger malfunctions that regular furnace maintenance helps to prevent are quite another. Many in the HVAC industry believe that up to 75% of all no-heat situations are caused by poor maintenance.
The life of most modern furnaces is around 15-20 years. There’s no getting around it, furnace parts wear out. But by catching these problems early, before the system is in full operation, it’s possible to fix the problem before it becomes worse, and thus more costly.
Indeed, according to Energy Star, small problems, especially in furnaces, can balloon into larger problems, can start fires, or become health hazards.
Catching Carbon Monoxide Issues
Beyond money, one of the most important reasons to maintain your furnace is your health. Gas furnaces are significant sources of carbon monoxide, an odourless, colourless gas that poses a major health risk. Inhalation can cause dizziness, headaches, and unconsciousness leading to death. This is why the Canada Safety Council recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors near any dangerous equipment, such as gas furnaces.
For this reason, furnace maintenance technicians will always take extra care to check a furnace for signs that it may become a carbon monoxide hazard, signs like a cracked heat exchanger. If anything like that is noticed, furnace technicians will immediately replace the part, or the furnace if necessary.
In the absence of maintenance, these problems go unnoticed, with sometimes tragic consequences.
Choose Knight for Your Furnace Tune-Up
We’ll make sure your furnace is working in tip-top shape. There’s a reason we’ve been named one of Calgary’s top 3 air conditioning and heating companies by the Top Choice Awards in 2015.
Our professional technicians will help to improve the efficiency of your furnace, saving you money, and helping to prevent larger problems. Contact us today for your estimate.